On Friday, shares of General Electric (GE) - Get General Electric Company Report looked like they were going to open around $21.50, down about 8% from Thursday's close after a worse-than-expected earnings report. Management slashed its full-year guidance for 2017 and said it would be reviewing its dividend. Given the struggles for GE, its dividend was about the only positive factor.
Surprisingly, shares didn't open at $21.50. GE stock actually turned positive by the end of Friday's session, closing near $24. On Monday, General Electric is trading about 3.5% lower, to $23, as investors try to process the company's results. Plenty of analysts have come out with new price targets, ratings and dividend forecasts as they've had the weekend to work out the details on GE.
Where do they stand on the dividend?
JPMorgan has had some of the more vocal (and correct) analysts on the bear side. On Monday, analyst Stephen Tusa said the company's fiscal third-quarter results only reinforce his negative views. "The numbers now speak for themselves," he reasoned. He cut his price target to $19 from $20, adding that operating cash flow needs to triple in order for GE to maintain its current annual dividend of 96 cents per share.
Last Wednesday, Tusa assigned that $20, but also suggested GE cut the dividend down to 60 cents per share. The nearly 38% haircut was a view that Goldman Sachs analysts also took last week ahead of earnings.
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On Monday, there were more suggestions, too. Morgan Stanley analysts suggested a 27% reduction down to 70 cents per share. This came along with a downgrade to underperform from equal weight and a price target reduction to $22 from $25.
UBS analyst Christopher Belfiore downgraded GE to neutral and reduced his price target to $24 from $31. As for the dividend, he suggested a reduction of 30%, down to about 67 cents per share.
From the analysts above, we have a dividend range of 60 cents to 70 cents, so anywhere from a 25% to 40% dividend cut is starting to become expected. Others, like Deutsche Bank and RBC have only said they expect management to reduce the dividend on or before the company's investor meeting on November 13.
The question will become, how much of a cut are investors starting to price into the stock. If GE were to maintain its payout, it would yield about 4.15% right now. If General Electric were to reduce that payout to say, 65 cents per share, a ~33% reduction, GE stock would yield just 2.8% at current levels.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.